Slight drop in road deaths, but pedestrian, cycle fatalities jump

For the second year in a row, the number of people who died on the nation’s roadways dropped slightly, but the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed has risen considerably.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — NHTSA — estimated Monday 36,750 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2018, a 1% decrease from 2017.

But Jonathan Adkins, executive director with the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the number of pedestrians and cyclists on two and three wheels is projected to be up 4% and 10%, respectively.

“The folks who are some of the most vulnerable users on the road, continue, unfortunately, to be victims of traffic crashes,” said Adkins.

“We’re getting safer when we’re in our cars, with all the great equipment and technology,” said Adkins, but different tactics need to be taken to provide for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got safe places to walk, good crosswalks, and that we enforce traffic laws.”

Adkins said reducing speed limits and increasing traffic enforcement saves lives.

“When the public thinks they’re going to get a ticket, they slow down, they wear their seat belts, they don’t drive impaired,” said Adkins.

As states move toward legalizing marijuana, Adkins said they must consider the traffic safety ramifications and laws.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about marijuana. Just because you smoked marijuana, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re impaired.”

While the annual number of nationwide traffic deaths rises and falls, Adkins is concerned by a lack of dramatic improvements.

“We’ve come to sort of accept this, this is the norm — that about 37-or-40,000 of us are going to die every year, and most of us kind of just shrug our shoulders,” Adkins said.

GHSA represents state highway safety offices, which administer grant programs funded through federal legislation.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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